Hello Fall Theme Q&A

It’s my favorite time of year again – autumn. There’s always been something magical from mid-September through the end of the year and even into some of January. I’m excited, because even though we’re going to be very busy in the coming months, there are a lot of fun things on our calendar.

I became aware of Roads to Everywhere’s Fall Theme Q&A post from a few years ago, and I thought it would be fun to answer the same questions and share with you some of my favorite things about pumpkin spice season in honor of the Blog Hop hosted by Timberdoodle.

Favorite fall sweet treat?

I’m a big fan of the pumpkin spice latte. What can I say? I’m a bit basic that way.

Red, yellow, or green apples?

Good question. I like Gala apples, but I just picked up a bunch of Granny Smiths so that I can make a pie with Princess Boogie.

Favorite fall sport to play?

I always enjoyed playing flag football as a kid. I haven’t played it in years, though.

Best drink for fall?

Nothing says “fall” like hot mulled apple cider…especially if it’s got a little Kraken mixed in.

Favorite fall activity?

Fall campfires/fire pits are a lot of fun.

Must-have fall purchase?

Fall-colored jeans and a plain white oversized sweater.

Pumpkins: Pick your own or store-bought?

We almost always pick our own. There’s something about the tradition of going to a pumpkin patch. That said, there have been a few “hot mess” years where we’ve picked pumpkins up at stores.

Real or fake pumpkins?

I feel about fake pumpkins like I feel about fake holiday trees. 😛 Though, I do have a reusable teal pumpkin since we participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project every year. But, I love roasting pumpkin seeds, and I think we might get a few pumpkins to paint (in addition to a few good carvers) so I can roast them for pie after we’re done with them.

Favorite Halloween costume?

The ones that I throw together randomly 20 minutes before going trick or treating for myself. It’s always fun to get creative and make something random.

College football or NFL?

GO GREEN! GO WHITE! (College football…Michigan State…) though it’s a lot of fun to go to games.

Fall or Halloween decor?

Both? I’m going to be pulling out my Halloween mantle stuff next weekend…I want to collect more fun Halloween stuff though.

Raking leaves? Or no leaves to rake?

Oh…we have a TON of trees around our house, so it’s always a lot of leaves.

Favorite soup?

I have a tradition of making slow cooker white bean pumpkin chili on Halloween & pumpkin cornbread. I love it.

Favorite fall candle scent?

Caramel apple

Love or hate pumpkin spice?

I love it. Pumpkin spice everything, please.

Short booties or tall boots?

I have wide calves, so I have a couple of knee-high boots I really like, but I love booties and boots.

Favorite Halloween candy?

Reeses’ peanut butter cups…and Almond Joys

Pumpkin Spice Latte? Yes or No?

Yes – but it needs to be made right .

Hayride or corn maze?

Both. I love them both.

Favorite fall TV show?

This Is Us.

A good book for fall?

I’m reading Handmaid’s Tale right now. I’ll be reading Red Tents & then The Power. I’ve been on a dystopian novel kick. I don’t really know if it’s a “good book for fall,” but it’s nice to snuggle under a blanket and read.

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Review: Timberdoodle’s Farmland Math Mat Bundle

Recently, I had the opportunity to try a preschool resource I’d been wanting to try for a long time. I received a special discount for Timberdoodle’s Farmland Math Mat Bundle in exchange for an honest review. This preschool math resource is available both on its own for $43.50 or as part of their 2019 Preschool Curriculum Bundle.

What is the Farmland Math Mat Bundle?

The Farmland Math Mat Bundle is a combination of resources. It’s a tub of counters, a large play mat, and then a guided manual that takes parents and students through 36 weeks of hands-on math activities. It’s suitable for ages 2+, but I reviewed it with my 3-year-old instead of my 2-year-old.

Learn By Doing

I love resources that get the pre-k set learning while they play (let’s be real here, I love resources that get anyone learning through play). The animal counters are just the right size for little hands to grasp (plus they’re cute). There are five different animals in six different colors – for a total of 30.

The book has a script for what the instructor can say to the student – this is great. Not only because you don’t have to come up with a script when you play with the farmland mat, but also because the script leads the student through mathematical thinking – from counting to grouping to basic adding and subtracting.

Our Verdict

Mr. Three really wants to “play with my farm animals” again soon. He really enjoyed it, even though he’s been counting past 30 for some time now. It’s always good to reinforce those basic math concepts, but it’s also good for kids to get hands-on experience with the counters. While we did activities, his older sister looked on to make sure he was having a good time. I will definitely use this with the 2-year-old as well. I thought of some fun activities that older children can participate in using the counters, as well. I’ll share a few suggestions for that at the end.

Additional Activities

There are 36 weeks worth of activities in the book that is included in the Farmland Math Mat Bundle from Timberdoodle, but if you’re looking for a way to extend the activities or adapt them to older children, here are some ideas:

  • Sorting – young children love to sort. You can have them sort by color, by animal, by animal characteristics (fur vs. feathers, perhaps)
  • Graphing – older children can use graphing skills to depict what is in front of them on the mat
  • Multiplication – if there are 3 of each type of animal, how many animals are there? If there are four four legged-animals, how many legs are there all together?
  • Skip-counting – counting by 2s for pairs of legs or 4s with the four-legged animals
  • Number shapes – get some colored popsicle sticks – have students make shapes and place an animal in each corner.
  • Open-ended play – let your child take the counters and play with them – either with the mat or without it. Imaginative play is vital to healthy development.

What ideas do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Find It Series – Tot Resource Review

I received the Highlights Find It series from Timberdoodle in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My kids are 2, 3, and 5 now, so this year, I’ll be adding some totschool preschool activities into our routine. I’ll write more about what I’m using for that soon, but first, I wanted to share this fun series of board books with you.

There are four books in the Highlights “find it” series: Things that Go, Animals, Bedtime, and Farm. Each of the books has three items on the left page to find and an image on the right where toddlers can search for the images. This makes the books a good resource for math concepts, pre-reading, vocabulary-building, and fun.

Pages from Bedtime

Vivid Images Hold Interest

The books have bright images, which engage children. I tested this resource with both my 2 and 3 year old children. They both really loved the books. My 2 year old enjoyed looking at the photos, finding the animals, and matching toys to the animals in the photos.

My three year old wanted to make sure that he was saying the words correctly when we ere looking at the books. His favorite was the Things That Go volume. He’s a big fan of backhoes and excavators and fire trucks, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that he really enjoyed this book.

I was actually surprised by how much my 3 1/2 year old got out of the books. I was thinking of them as solely being resources for my toddler, but it turned out that he really got a lot out of them as well, and that they kept his interest.

Using Find-It Books in Lessons

In addition to reading the books and finding the items, there are some activities you can do with your young student to maximize the value of these resources. Here are some ideas:

  • Match toy animals or vehicles to images
  • Talk about the animal sounds
  • Challenge your student to find a word that rhymes with the item
  • Ask your student to search for other items (i.e. where is the owl?)
  • Ask student to describe an item to you without naming it for you to find it.

What other activities can you think of to use these books for?

Purchase the set of Find It books here, or find it as part of the whole Tiny Tots curriculum at Timberdoodle.

Secular note: Timberdoodle’s curriculum packs are primarily religious-based, but they offer a variety of secular resources – and many critical thinking toys and curriculum options.

Resource Review: Moon Rush: The New Space Race by Leonard David

Do you have a student interested in space exploration? Moon Rush: The New Space Race by Leonard David talks about the technology and science that will drive exploring the moon. This book is great for learning about the history of moon exploration and myths about the moon to plans for the future. It’s definitely for high school level and above, although a precocious middle-schooler would probably enjoy reading this one. I’ve shared tidbits from it with my younger students, but it will be shelved with my 10th grade science curriculum.

About Moon Rush

• Hardcover: 224 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (May 7, 2019)

Veteran space journalist digs into the science and technology–past, present, and future–central to our explorations of Earth’s only satellite, the space destination most hotly pursued today.

In these rich pages, veteran science journalist Leonard David explores the moon in all its facets, from ancient myth to future “Moon Village” plans. Illustrating his text with maps, graphics, and photographs, David offers inside information about how the United States, allies and competitors, as well as key private corporations like Moon Express and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, plan to reach, inhabit, and even harvest the moon in the decades to come.

Spurred on by the Google Lunar XPRIZE–$20 million for the first to get to the moon and send images home–the 21st-century space race back to the moon has become more urgent, and more timely, than ever. Accounts of these new strategies are set against past efforts, including stories never before told about the Apollo missions and Cold War plans for military surveillance and missile launches from the moon. Timely and fascinating, this book sheds new light on our constant lunar companion, offering reasons to gaze up and see it in a different way than ever before.

Social Media

Please use the hashtag #moonrush and tag @tlcbooktours.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Ideas for Social Activities for Secular Homeschoolers

If you’ve been homeschooling – or even considering homeschooling – then you know that the first question “concerned” people ask is, “What about socialization?” Because of this, one of the most common questions asked in homeschooling groups is, “so what can my kids do as a social activity?” Rest assured, there are many activities for homeschoolers to participate in (in fact, I feel like there are more activities available for homeschooled kids than there are for their public and private school counterparts).

Secular homeschoolers often run up against the wall because many activities appear to center around church groups, and many homeschooling groups are religious in nature (particularly Christian). Some groups, co-ops, and sports clubs for homeschoolers may even require a signed statement of faith. What’s one to do, then, when seeking out secular activities for children who are homeschooled? Here are some ideas.

Scouting

There are the two main scouting organizations – Girl Scouts and (Boy) Scouts*, and then some lesser-known scouting organizations. We’re heavily involved with Girl Scouts (I just signed up to co-lead my daughter’s troop), and since I also was a Girl Scout, I’m partial to the organization. My little guy is too young for Scouts as of yet, but when he’s old enough, he’ll join a Den. Other scouting organizations include: Navigators USA, Frontier Girls, SpiralScouts, and Campfire. Scouting helps build confidence, STEAM knowledge and skills, outdoor skills, leadership skills, and life skills. If you know of a scouting organization I haven’t mentioned, please share it in the comments.

4-H

4-H is another youth program that encourages skill development. 4-H programs cover STEM, agriculture, healthy living, and citizenship skills. There are no uniforms and no national fees, and projects can be selected to work with your family’s budget. 4-H programs are available for kids 8-19, and there’s a junior program available called “Cloverbud” for ages 5-7.

Programs at Museums and Zoos

Our area has a number of neat museums and two zoos – one local and one with in 30 minutes. They all offer various learning opportunities and classes for homeschoolers. Don’t limit yourself, though. See what programs your local museums and zoos have and take advantage of them. Even if a program isn’t specifically for homeschoolers, it will be a great opportunity for your young student to learn and interact with other kids with similar interests.

Library Programs

Most libraries have a variety of programs – from storytimes for younger children to LEGO events for older children, there’s a variety of possibilities for kids to meet other kids at the library who are into the same things as they are. Some libraries even have homeschool group meetups.

Parks and Recreation

We’re very lucky. Our Parks and Recreation classes cost as little as $9 a session, and most are around $20. All three of our young children take advantage of classes like gymnastics, art, and dance and basketball clinics. Be sure to check out opportunities near you for affordable classes. They’re particularly great for having kids get their feet wet in one activity without making a full commitment.

Sports Leagues and Gyms

Many of the gyms around us have homeschool days. Some even host sports teams for kids outside of school. We also have a lot of different sports leagues to choose from (benefits of being in a city). Call around, you may be surprised at the opportunities offered in your area.

Studios, Companies, Galleries, and Private Lessons

Here, we have galleries and studios offering some homeschool art and music lessons. This can be a great opportunity for getting out there and learning an extracurricular skill in the arts. Don’t overlook local theatre companies. My oldest found his passion in theatre by joining the local independent theatre company’s youth company. On that note, don’t forget to check out local dance studios, art galleries, and children’s choir and orchestra opportunities.

Local Institutions of Higher Ed

My 5 year old took violin lessons that were both group and solo from a music professor through the local university. Many colleges and universities offer programs for children through their various departments. Years ago, my oldest took a series of science courses aimed for late elementary and middle school students through the local university.

Local Meetup Groups, Facebook Groups, Co-Ops, and Clubs

As if you didn’t already have enough options already, each community usually has a group of homeschoolers or kids that meet up regularly. There are also board gaming clubs, extension programs, and co-ops. If you find that your local area doesn’t have a secular-friendly group, don’t fear. Put out some feelers on social media. Chances are, there are other parents like you who would like to meet up with secular-minded families.

So, when someone asks you, “but what about socialization?”, you now have a set of answers. In my community, there are more options and opportunities that any one family could ever reasonably participate in. I turn the question on you, now, what activities do your kids participate in?

Resource Review: Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

I love astronomy, and Miss 5 is a budding astronomer herself. While my lesson plans have us doing astronomy in 2nd, 6th, and 10th grades in a more methodical way, it’s nice to have resources to answer questions & provide information to her now. So, when I was asked if I’d like to review National Geographic’s Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, I jumped at the chance.

Like other National Geographic publications, like National Geographic’s Space Atlas, this guide is beautifully illustrated. It’s a nice size to throw in a purse or bag for taking to your local observatory or up into the treehouse. Learn about the different planets, stars, and space features. Perhaps the biggest use of this book for now will be the constellations guide, particularly as we move into warmer weather and spend more time outside. This book makes an outstanding addition to any homeschooler’s library of reference materials. There’s even a section on stargazing with your children.

About Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

• Paperback: 288 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 2 edition (March 19, 2019)

Explore the star-studded cosmos with this fully updated, user-friendly skywatcher’s guide, filled with charts, graphics, photographs, and expert tips for viewing — and understanding — the wonders of space.

Stargazing’s too much fun to leave to astronomers. In these inviting pages, “Night Sky Guy” Andrew Fazekas takes an expert but easygoing approach that will delight would-be astronomers of all levels. Essential information, organized logically, brings the solar system, stars, and planets to life in your own backyard. Start with the easiest constellations and then “star-hop” across the night sky to find others nearby. Learn about the dark side of the moon, how to pick Mars out of a planetary lineup, and which kinds of stars twinkle in your favorite constellations. Hands-on tips and techniques for observing with the naked eye, binoculars, or a telescope help make the most out of sightings and astronomical phenomena such as eclipses and meteor showers. Photographs and graphics present key facts in an easy-to-understand format, explaining heavenly phenomena such as black holes, solar flares, and supernovas. Revised to make skywatching even easier for the whole family, this indispensable guide shines light on the night sky–truly one of the greatest shows on Earth!

Social Media

Please use the hashtag #backyardguidetothenightsky and tag @tlcbooktours.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Review: How to Know the Birds by Ted Floyd

We have a pesky cardinal that likes to say “hello” twice a day by attacking our windows. Every day I think, “I really should put some stickers on these windows,” and every day I forget about that thought. Mr. 3 likes to sit and watch said cardinal, and he’s filled with lots of questions about birds. In fact, everywhere we go, my budding ornithologist spots birds and asks about them. So when I was asked if I’d like to review How to Know the Birds by Ted Floyd, I said “yes” with him in mind.

While this book isn’t an identification guide (see this other post for a North American Birds identification guide), it is a good resource for families incorporating nature studies into their homeschooling routines to have on hand. How to Know the Birds will help you to delve deeper into the intricacies of birds and birdwatching and answer a lot of the questions kids come up with when observing birds. For example, the chapter using cardinals as a primary example is titled, “Sex and Gender,” and uses the male cardinal’s bright red color to discuss sexual dimorphism – where the male and female of a species appear different and then cautions against assuming that it’s always the male in a bird species that exhibits the more fanciful markings.

About How to Know the Birds

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic (March 12, 2019)

Become a better birder with brief portraits of 200 top North American birds. This friendly, relatable book is a celebration of the art, science, and delights of bird-watching.

How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd’s charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.

Social Media

Please use the hashtag #howtoknowthebirds and tag @tlcbooktours.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble